Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

when a Writer omits to say a thing which it was indifferent to his purpose whether he said or not. But when he omits to say a thing, which it was much to his purpose to say, this is not a mere silence. It is a silence attended with a circumstance, which makes the evidence drawn from that silence something more than negative, and, consequently, something more than mere silence. So much for Dr. Stebbing.

A Cornish Writer* pursues the same argument against the Divine Legation ; but takes his parallel much higher.

“ There is no one

(says he) “ who reads HOMER that can doubt whether a Future state were the popular belief amongst the Greeks in the times he writes of. And yet, by what I remember of him, I believe it would be difficult to produce Six instances in all his poems of any actions either entered upon or avoided from the EXPRESS motive of the rewards or punishments to be expected in the other world.”

I inferred from a Future state's never being mentioned in the Jewish History, amongst the motives of men's actions (after it had been omitted in the Jewish Law and Religion), that it was not of popular belief amongst that people. Now here comes an Answerer, and says, that it is not mentioned above six TIMES EXPRESSLY in Homer, and yet that nobody can doubt whether it were not the popular belief amongst the Greeks. The good cautious man! Had it been but ONCE EXPRESSLY mentioned in the Old Testament, I should no more have doubted of its being of popular belief amongst the Jews, than he does. Why then do we doubt so little, in the case of the Greeks, but for the same reason why we ought to doubt so much in the case of the Jews! HOMER (who gives a detailed account of a future state), this writer allows, has mentioned it about six times as a motive. The ScripTURES (which, together with the history, deliver the Law and Religion of the Jews, in which a future state is omitted) mention it not once, as a motive. But this Answerer would make the reader believe, I made my inference from the paucity, and not from the want, of the mention. The same may be observed of another expression of this candid Gentleman's—express motive. Now much less would have satisfied me; and I should readily have allowed that the Jews had the popular belief amongst them, had the motive been but once fairly implied.

But let us take him at the best, and suppose Homer did not afford one single instance. What, I pray you, has Homer in common with Moses? Suppose, I should affirm from the Greek History, That the ancient WORTHIES always proportioned their work to their strength and bulk ; and that my Answerer was not in an humour to let this pass; but, to confute me, would press me with the high atchievements of Tom Thumb, as they are recorded in his authentic story ; who was as famed for his turbulence in king Arthur's Court, as Achilles was in Agamemnon's : Would not this be just as much to the purpose, as to put the Iliad and the Odyssey in parallel with the Law and the Prophets?

But Homer's poems have been so long called the Bible of the Pagans, that this Answerer appears, in good earnest, to have taken them for religious History; otherwise how could it have ever entered into his head to make so ridiculous a comparison ? My reasoning with regard to SCRIPTURE stood thus.-As all good History deals with the motives of men's actions, so the peculiar business (as it seems to me) of religious History is to scrutinize their religious Motives : Of these, the principal is the consideration of a Future state. And this not being so much as once mentioned in the ancient Jewish History, it is natural to conclude that the Jews of those

• Mr. Peters.

times had it not. But now, what has Homer's poems to do in this matter? I apprehend they are no religious History ; but compositions as far removed from it as possible, namely a military and civil Romance, brimfull of fabulous trumpery. Now in such a work, the writer surely would be principally solicitous about the civil motives of his Actors. And Homer, who is confessed to understand what belonged to every kind of Composition, would take care to keep within his subject ; and, to preserve decorum, would content himself with supplying his Warriors and Politicians with such motives as might best set off their Wisdom and their Heroism : such as the love of power, in which I comprise, revenge on their enemies : the love of plunder, in which is included their passion for fair Captives ; and the love of glory, in which, if you please, you may reckon their regard for their Friends and their Country.But in Homer's military and political Romances there are hardly sir instances in which a future state is mentioned as the express motive ; therefore the perpetual silence on this point, in the religious History of the Jews, and the perpetual mention of it in the religious Histories of the Suevi and the Saracens, conclude nothing in favour of the argument of the Divine Legation.

P. 13. PP. To this Dr. Stebbing objects, that "it means no more than that man was not to be restored to his earthly human state.” Exam. p. 60. and, to confirm this, he appeals to the tenth verse of this chapter, which runs thus, He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more. But the learned Doctor should have reflected, that if Job says the dead man returns no more to his house, he gives a reason for his so saying, very inconsistent with the Doctor's interpretation of the 9th verse of the viith chapter. It was, because the dead man was got into the land of darkness and the shadow of death [chap. X. 21.] it was because he was not awake nor could be raised out of his sleep [chap. xiv. 12.] But the very subject which Job is here treating confutes the Doctor's interpretation : He is complaining that life is short, and that after death he shall no more sce good, for that he who goeth down to the grave shall come up no more ; he shall return no more to his house [ver. 7, 8, 9, 10.] which at least implies that there was no good to be expected any where, but in this world : And this expectation is cut off in express terms.

P. 14. QQ. To this sense of the text, Dr. Stebbing objects, and says, that by no reward is meant none in this world. Exam. p. 63, 64. and in support of his interpretation, quotes the words of the verse immediately following-neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun. Now I agree with the learned Doctor that these words are an explanation of the foregoing, of the dead's not having any more a reward: and from thence draw just the contrary inference, That the sacred writer, from the consideration of the dead's not returning to life to enjoy their reward, concluded that, when once death had seized them, they could have no reward at all; not even that imaginary one, the living in the memory of men, for the memory of them (says he) is forgotten. So again from the consideration in ver. 6. that the dead had neither love, hatred, nor envy, he had concluded ver. 5. that TIEY KNEW NOT ANY THING.—But the premisses and the conclusion not being in their usual order, our learned Doctor's Logic did not reach to take the force of the Preacher's.

P. 19. RR. To all this, it hath been said,—“Christians have the promise of the life that now is, excepting the case of persecution, Mark x. 30.” The words of Jesus in the Evangelist are,—there is no one that hath LEFT house or brethren, &c. for my sake and the Gospels, but he shall receive an hundred fold nou in this time, houses and lands, sc. with persccutions, and in the world to come, eternal life. But these words evidently allude to the first Followers of Jesus, while the Church was under an extraordinary Providence, that is, during the Age of Miracles : and as that sort of Dispensation is always aided by the course of natural and civil events, we easily see how it would be promoted by leaving a country doomed to the most horrid and exterminating destruction. But St. Paul, where he assigns only the life which is to come to the followers of the Gospel, is speaking of a different thing, namely of the genius of the Christian Dispensation in general, as it is opposed to Judaism.

P. 21. SS. The serious reader, who considers all this, will not be a little surprised to hear that eminent Scholar and Divine, Dr. S. Clarke, talk in the following manner, where, after having spoken of the doubts and uncertainties of the ancient Philosophers concerning a future state, he concludes in these words,—“From all which it appears that notwithstanding all the bright arguments and acute conclusions and brave sayings of the best Philosophers, yet life and immortality were not fully and SATISFACTORILY brought to light by BARE NATURAL REASON.”—[Ev. of nat. and rev. Religion, p. 146.]-It would be very strange if they had ; since Scripture is so far from allowing any part of this discovery to natural reason, that it will not admit even the Mosaic Revelation to have a share, but reserves it all for the Gospel of Christ : so that had natural Religion brought life and immortality to light, though not fully and satisfactorily, the learned Apostle would be found to have spoken much too highly of the prerogatives of the Gospel.

The truth is, the very learned Writer had two points to make out, in this famous work; the one was the evidence of natural Religion ; and, under that head, he is to shew, that it taught life and immortality. His other point was, the evidence of Revealed Religion, and there, (to shew its use and necessity) he is to demonstrate that bare natural reason could not discover life and immortality. Thus the very method of his demonstration obliged him, in the former part, to give to natural Religion an honour which, in the latter part, he was forced to take away : and to reconcile them with one another, was the purpose of the conciliating words aboveyet life and immortality were not fully and SATISFACTORILY brought to light by bare natural reason : which indeed does the business ; but it is at the expence of the learned Apostle, who says it was not brought to light at all, till the preaching of the Gospel.

P. 21. TT. To this it has been said, “that the mystery of the Gospel here mentioned, is rather that which is meant by the word, chap. iii. 3-9. namely the calling in of the Gentiles to be fellow-heirs with the Jews.”For a confutation of this absurd fancy, read—The free and candid examination of the principles advanced by the Lord Bishop of London, chap. i. p. 24. et seq. where the learned and most judicious Author has sufficiently exploded it.

THE

DIVINE LEGATION OF MOSES

DEMONSTRATED.

BOOK VI.

SECTION I.

AFTER such convincing evidence that a FUTURE STATE did not make part of the Religion of Moses, the reader would not have suspected, he must once more be stopped to hear a long Answer to a set of texts brought from the Old and New Testament to prove, That the Doctrine of a future state of reward and punishment did make the most essential part of the Mosaic Dispensation : and this, not by few fanciful Allegorists, or outrageous.Bigots only, who will say, or do

any thing; but by many sober men of all Sects and Parties, of all Times, and of all Religions.

I. Several of the ancient CHRISTIAN Writers were so persuaded of this point, that, not content to say, the doctrine of a Future state made part of the Mosaic Dispensation, they would be confident that the

very Pagans learnt it all from thence. Some modern Christians have not been behind them in their Faith, but have far outstripped them in their Charity, while they treated the denial of this extravagant Opinion as a new species of infidelity. It is true, they are all extremely confused and obscure about the way, they represent it to have been taught : And there have not been wanting, at all times, men of greatest eminence for parts and piety, who have not only doubted, but plainly denied this Future state to be in the Mosaic Religion ; though, to be just to all, with the same inconsistency and embarras that the others have maintained it.* However, the more current doctrine bath always been, That a future state of rewards and punishments was taught by the Law of Moses.

As surprizing as this may seem to those who have weighed the foregoing Evidence, yet indeed no less could be expected from such a number of concurrent and oddly combined Prejudices, which have served, till now, to discredit one of the clearest and most important truths of Revelation.

• See note A, at the end of this book.

1. The first was, that several Patriarchs and Prophets, both before and under the Mosaic Dispensation, were certainly favoured with the revelation of man's Redemption ; in which the doctrine of a Future state is eminently contained : And they think it utterly incredible that These should not have conveyed it to their People and Posterity.

2. They could not conceive how a Religion could be worthy of God, which did not propose to its Followers a Future State of rewards and punishments ; but confined their views to the carnal things of this life only.

3. The truth, here attempted to be established, had been received and abused by the Enemies of all true Religion and Godliness; such as the Sadducees of the old Jewish church, the Gnostics of the old Christian, and Unbelievers in all Churches.

4. Lastly, men were kept fast within the error into which these prejudices had drawn them, by never rightly distinguishing between a Future State of reward and punishment, as taught by what men call natural Religion, and a future state as taught by Christian Revelation; which is the clue, as we shall see hereafter, to conduct us through all the errors and perplexities of this region of darkness, till we come into the full and glorious light of the Gospel.

But in Religious matters, combinations much less strange are suficient to defeat the credit of the plainest Fact. A noted instance of what OBSTINACY alone can do against the self-evidence of Truth, will abate our wonder at the perversity in question ; at least it may be put to use, in the history of the human mind, towards which, will be found materials, neither vulgar nor few, in the course of this work. There is a sect, and that no inconsiderable one, which, being essentially founded in Enthusiasm, bath, amongst other of its strange freaks, thrown out the institution of waTER-BAPTISM from its scheme of Christianity. It is very likely that the illiterate Founder, while rapt in his fanatic visions, did not reflect that, of all the institutions of our holy Religion, this of water-baptism was least proper to be called in question ; being most invincibly established by the practice both of Paul and PETER. This latter finding that the houshold of Cornelius the GENTILE had received the Holy Ghost, regarded it as a certain direction for him to admit them into the Church of Christ, which he did by the initiatory Rite of water-baptism. (Acts x. 47.] Paul, in his travels through the Lesser Asia, finding some of the Jewish Converts who had never heard of the Holy Ghost, and, on enquiry, understanding they had been only baptised by water unto John's Baptism, thought fit to baptise them with water in the name of the Lord Jesus, that is, to admit them into the Church ; and then laying his hands upon them the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they spake with tongues and prophesied. [Acts xix. 4, 5, 6.]

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »